Treating cerebral palsy: play therapy
Play is an essential activity for all children. This is where real learning begins. Because some children with cerebral palsy are more limited in their physical ability, it may not be easy for them to engage in spontaneous play, so be ready to give your child any assistance they may need to help them enjoy playing. This is an area where friends and family can be fully involved in the therapy of your child’s development.

Obviously, not all toys will be suitable for all children, as cerebral palsy varies so greatly, from a very mild disability to total immobility. Always be sure that the child’s toys are accessible to him or her and that he or she has some way of letting you know what she wants to play with. As they get older, and depending on the severity of their disability, they will be able to indicate which toy they’d like in a clear and certain way. You must ensure, however, that they don’t miss out on the early opportunity to make choices in the area of play. As early as possible you should devise a system through which your child can communicate to you their preferences. This may be through speech or signs, or as they get older through picture boards or electronic devices.

No matter how old your child is, playing is a most valuable area of their therapy. It not only helps to release stress, it can also aid their development, and in some cases speed it up. Play also induces laughter, which we all know is the best medicine. Playing also increases hand-eye coordination, can aid in developing fine motor skills, and as they get older, can aid in developing their gross motor skills, such as playing with balls, tee ball or other backyard athletics.

Activities that seem like play to a child often have an ulterior motive. For instance, games involving “spotting the difference”, or pointing out which part of a picture or drawing does not belong, help the child’s neurological development. Obstacle courses, ball games, playing in the sand and even make believe not only help the child’s mental development, but also their motor skills, balance and coordination. As these areas of development are generally more difficult for children with cerebral palsy, frequent play is a fun and easy way for a child to practice trouble zones, and they won’t even know that they’re undergoing therapy at home!

One of the most important things you can do for you child’s development is just putting them on the floor. A child’s earliest independence comes from exploring the world, using whatever mobility he or she has, from a position where he or she is free to do so. Putting a child on the floor, even if they have limited mobility, at least provides the opportunity for exploration. Time spent lying on the floor with a few toys around will be a valuable opportunity to exercise early self-help in play and mobility.

Oftentimes, parents of children with special needs can easily get caught in a trap of thinking they must always control their child’s positioning and activities, but all children must have the chance to learn from experience. If you are offering a lot of stimulation to your child, there has to be an opportunity for them to show you what they have learned (input and output) by being allowed to roam free occasionally. Putting your child on the floor and letting them play and explore will give them a chance to not only learn more, but to show you what they have learned already.

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